First five down

Softball loses opening five games, but team’s future looks bright

softball

“Swing and a miss” is a common phrase uttered by baseball broadcasters and the unfortunate result of UB softball’s first five games of the season.

Softball (0-5) travelled to Fullerton, California last weekend to compete in the Titan Classic against teams from across the country. The Bulls lost every game but managed to remain close, losing twice in extra innings. Buffalo remains confident despite the disappointing start, with a new head coach in Mike Ruechel and new pitching coach in Jody Hennigar.

“Even though the record didn't show that we had success, I thought it was successful,” Ruechel said. “We had three games that we had the opportunity to win. We didn't hit really well and we didn't field the ball really well, but we pitched really well. If our pitching stays steady like it did this past weekend, then the future looks bright.”

Ruechel is now in his second season with the Bulls. As an assistant last year under Mike Roberts, Ruechel specialized in creating better hitters and swings for the girls on the team. Ruechel led the team to an increase in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and home-run total from the year prior.

Hennigar has 45 years of softball playing and coaching experience while being a member of the Canadian National Men’s Fastpitch team for over a decade.

Last season at Jacksonville University, the team posted a 2.80 earned-run average. The Bulls produced a 6.92 ERA last year.

Hennigar’s impact has already been seen with the emergence of senior pitcher Lace Smith putting together two of her better performances in a Bulls uniform.

“My biggest improvement has to actually just be finishing a game this season,” Smith said. “The past years have been pretty rough, but this year will be better with me and Ally Power.”

Smith has posted a 2.16 ERA through 16.2 innings pitched so far. Smith pitched a complete game during Buffalo’s 5-4 extra-innings loss to California State Fullerton.

“Honestly, this year I thought to myself that it is my senior year. Just have fun, go with the flow,” Smith said. “That was how I kept it going this past weekend. You can't really do much but have fun with the game and do the best that you can.”

The Bulls brought in one of their largest recruiting classes ever this season, along with the new coaches. Buffalo has a lot of new players that have already made an impact. 

Zoe Hicks the supposed top incoming player for the Bulls, departed from Buffalo after one fall semester with the team, never playing a game.

Sophomore Alicia Peters started her UB career on the right foot after transferring from Sierra College. Peters leads the team with a .333 batting average with two doubles and two walks.

Freshmen Alexis Matheney, Hannah Bardeen, Kassidy Aiken and Olivia Kincanon all played over the weekend.

The Bulls lost five starters from a season ago, which could make lineup decisions difficult for Ruechel.

“You try to bring in the best that you can, and you go from there into developing and trying to create a lineup to get the right people in at the right time,” Ruechel said.

Buffalo did not have success in the field during the weekend. The Bulls have not had the opportunity to practice outside since the fall, except for the rare day of warm weather.

Buffalo has been practicing inside of the Edward Wright Practice Facility. The Bulls have not had the opportunity to practice against much live pitching and mainly perfected swings off of tees. 

UB managed to rack up 15 errors in the field with veterans of the team, junior second baseman Jenelle Martinez and senior short stop Alissa Karjel having three and four errors, respectively.

Buffalo will go for their first win of the season this week when they travel to Athens, Georgia to compete in the 12th-annual Red & Black Showcase at the University of Georgia.

Nathaniel Mendelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at nathaniel.mendelson@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @NateMendelson.

NATHANIEL MENDELSON


 Nathaniel Mendelson has been writing for The Spectrum since 2018, mainly covering football, men's basketball and softball. He currently works for The Buffalo News and has a daily article on buffalobills.com. Other responsibilities include managing the office fish tank.